I love this quote that my former colleague, Matthew Sanabria, sent me from a talk that Thomas Boltze did at GopherCon this year. The culture at our companies is, indeed, the set of behaviors that get rewarded, tolerated, or sanctioned, so in the spirit of rewarding behavior that I want to see more of, I’m going to brag about some awesome people and then invite you to do the same by sharing with us hall-of-famers you know. I’ll tell you how in the call to action section.
I talked about the inflection point that was brought about by digging into learning in order to create better outcomes here, but before moving on from this chapter of my career, I wanted to spend one more post talking about how the people and culture at 10th Magnitude (10M), my first tech job, created some really great inflection points that simply aren’t very probable at many other companies that I’ve seen. I want to call out some of my former colleagues who went above and beyond, lived out their values, and were there to help me through some tough learning, when the tutorials just weren’t cutting it.
I think consultancies are prime places to learn. It was total kismet that an Azure consultancy from Chicago hired me. First of all, Azure is arguably the easiest cloud to learn of the big three. Secondly, I really love Chicago, its honest and fun people, and its glorious food scene. Thirdly, a consultancy is solving the same types of problems over and over in different companies, but the problems are different enough that you’re always learning. And I certainly was.
I loved my time at 10M. I loved that it was a startup and out-of-the-box thinking was encouraged. I loved that if something needed to be done that I could knock out, I didn’t have to go through an approval process that could take weeks; I just did it and someone would actually thank me for it. I loved that I knew my CEO and that he was an all-around awesome person. I loved that there was a friendly atmosphere of comradery. Yes, there was a hurry-up then wait pace to things that could feel frantic at times, and yes, we would complain that the clients were asking for the wrong things, but all-in-all I’m so lucky to have gotten to work there when I did, and I look back with immense fondness.
I think I’ve driven home the problem of this time of my career pretty well by now in this series. I was trying to break into an industry with the unique skill set that I had to bring to the table while I was building an entirely new one. Challenges ensued. Getting hired somewhere was a challenge. Insisting that I wanted to do engineering while everyone kept suggesting sales, marketing, and technical writing was a challenge. Learning about infrastructure from the inside-out when I only knew the outside-in was a challenge. Writing Terraform module examples of Azure architectures that didn’t exist before was challenging. With each of those challenges, however, there were really awesome people who used those challenges to create inflection points in my career journey. So I’m dedicating this post to my 10M Hall of Fame, the people who really stand out in my memory for being awesome.
The Inflection Points: Getting Believed In by My Personal 10th Magnitude Hall of Fame
We all know the power that a technical recruiter wields. 10M was lucky enough to have an extremely talented and out-of-the-box thinking recruiter named Molly Hughes. She was a very involved recruiter, seeking to get to know every candidate beyond their resume. She knew what she was looking for, and she knew that it wasn’t always something that would be present on a resume. When Trevor recommended that Molly follow up with me, she could have taken one look at my resume and passed me up, but instead she had a long phone conversation with me, read my blog, looked me up on all the social media accounts to see what I was up to, and then decided to see me in person. This was exactly what I was hoping for because I knew that recruiters wouldn’t see what I had to offer by screening my resume only. The amount of recruiters that actually took the time to get to know me, however, was pretty low. But she didn’t stop there. Once she was convinced that I could do the job, she advocated for me. She believed in the value that I could add as an engineer, not sales or marketing like many had tried to pigeon-hole me into. She believed in the vision that I cast that I could leverage those soft-skills while building up the technical skills. I would have had quite a different experience if Molly hadn’t been such an integral part of 10M at the time. She is a huge reason that it was such a successful startup.
John Shupper was the sales director and leader of the Dallas office, where I lived at the time, so I interviewed with him, also. He, too, was so encouraging and believed in what I had to offer. He got excited about the uniqueness of my resume and advocated for my hiring. He then continued to be a source of encouragement and motivation throughout the four years that I worked there. He believed that the DevOps methodologies that I was advocating for would lead to positive business outcomes, so he would encourage me to create online content and even co-hosted a couple of videos with me. He sold projects for me to work on and was always on the lookout for future projects that were in my wheelhouse. He was a fun and encouraging team lead for the Dallas office who never made me feel like an imposter or that I didn’t belong. He always treated me like an engineer and a professional. That went a long way for me, because, believe it or not, there were a lot of people out there who didn’t quite believe that I could pull off a career in technology. When their voices got loud in my head, I could go back to the Dallas office to reset with some encouragement and comradery.
Scott Nowicki was another guy that I interviewed with who saw my potential, and, as an engineer, if he suggested that 10M hire me, he was really signing up to be tasked with helping me grow. He knew that he’d have to put his money where his mouth was, so to say yes to me was a huge show of support. There were not many projects that we had together until the one project that stands out as a huge turning point for me. We were tasked with creating Terraform example modules of the Azurerm provider that would be in a HashiCorp GitHub repository. This was in the early days before all of those modules were easily accessible through the registry. These examples were pretty new, so lots of folks would be relying on them to get started. That also meant that I couldn’t just google to figure out how to do it. I had to rely on being able to translate them from ARM templates. Some of the resources that we had to create in Terraform didn’t even have resources in the Azurerm provider yet, so the project was pretty challenging. I remember working a lot to get those done. Scott was my project lead, but I remember that he was double-booked for part of it, so he was stretched thin. Regardless, he spent countless hours pair programming with me to teach me what was needed to get unblocked. There were some modules that were pretty simple and then some would take over a week to create. He was supportive and had the true heart of a teacher throughout the project. I felt his support, and I came out of that project with so much more confidence and skill than I had before. It was the best crash course in Terraform module creation that anyone could ever have, and because of his mentorship, I was able to do many more Terraform projects after this one, and even lead them myself.
Conclusion / Call to Action
And here’s where the problem lies: helping Annie get into tech is not something that will likely come up in a performance evaluation or interview with Molly, John, or Scott. But that’s exactly the type of behavior that made 10M the awesome company that it was, and it’s exactly what we need more of in our industry.
So here I am recognizing them, and I don't want it to stop with just them.
Can you let me know of other people in your professional circles who have had that kind of impact on early career people? Think about whom, and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to start learning from and writing about these people, and in doing so, rewarding the behavior that we want to see. Their information would be confidential, and we would only share their story with their support.